Environmentally compatible design of power lines

Environmentally compatible design of power lines
Power lines are shaping the landscape now for about hundred years. © Cornerstone/pixelio.de

Involved sectors

Agriculture, Forestry, Hunting, Spatial planning, Tourism and leisure, Nature protection, Other: Energy

Affected habitats

Forest, Shrubs and wooded areas, Bogs and fens, wetlands, Alpine habitats, Grassland, Arable land, Areas for settlements and transport, Waterbodies


Power lines have been a feature of the landscape for almost 100 years. At present, there is virtually no alternative to them when it comes to Europe’s extra high voltage sector. Wide aisles of low-growing woodland emerge, particularly when the conductor cables cross large forest areas at the normal height. Nonetheless, there are still interesting options to promote ecoconnectivity in this cultural landscape, even in areas with encroaching woodland growth due to lack of agricultural use. With well-thought-out and systematic biotope management planning, these areas can become important habitats, connecting routes, stepping stones and corridors in the biotope network.


Impact in particular on Small mammals, Big mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians, Birds, Insects
Ecological impact  
Improvement or preservation of habitats With well-thought-out and sensible biotope management planning, various habitats and biotopes can be created in the aisles beneath power lines.
Element of ecological network With appropriate design, there are good opportunities for these routes to become corridors and newly created or maintained biotopes can become stepping stones or even core areas.
Time of realisation for measure Long term: The development of their impact as elements of a biotope network requires careful planning and a long-term design and maintenance process.
Impact scope Local (municipality): A regional strategy is imperative, but the impact will generally have local significance only.


Implementation period Months: The overhead power line network is very large. Individual measures like creating special new biotopes happen relatively quickly, but action on a broader basis is a task that will take many years.
Frequency Recurring: Requires long-term measures.

Economic and legal aspects

Costs High (100'000-1 Mio EUR): Costs vary depending on the project being planned. The maintenance measures in the aisles must, however, take place regularly, involving continuous labour costs.
Socio-economic impacts Low: The landscape is upgraded, especially areas with overhead power lines, which are generally viewed in negative terms.
Sources of financing Other private sources, Public: regional, Public: national

Further information

Evaluation Individual examples with committed energy suppliers and well-thought-out strategies can produce very good results, particularly in terms of connectivity. However, there are areas where overhead cables should definitely be removed and laid underground.
Information Other: Information on biotope management in power line routes can be obtained from energy supplier RWE, for example.
Contact Switzerland: Expert at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich: Dr. Thomas Coch, nature and landscape conservation

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